The Berean Expositor
Volume 21 - Page 188 of 202
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The witness of the Versions.
pp. 155 - 159
In our previous paper we saw how the text of the Hebrew Scriptures as authorized by
the Sopherim was fixed beyond the possibility of alteration by the labours of the
Massorites. We now look further afield for evidence concerning the actual text with
which the labours of the Sopherim were occupied; and for this we must turn to the
various ancient versions.
The Samaritan Pentateuch.--Within the strict meaning of the word, this is not a
version at all, for it is written in ancient Hebrew, being the oldest manuscript containing
the Hebrew text in existence. It is mentioned by Eusebius, Cyril and Jerome, and a
considerable range of opinion has from time to time been expressed as to its age and
authority. This is not the place to bring forward the arguments involved in so technical a
subject, and we can only state the result. In spite of the arguments of Gesenius, the most
reasonable hypothesis dates the Samaritan Pentateuch some time after the schism of the
tribes under Rehoboam. When the various characteristics of the Samaritan Pentateuch
are considered they appear to fit the circumstances indicated in II Kings 17: 24-41 very
closely. After the division of Israel, the ten tribes were taken away captive into Assyria,
and instead of the children of Israel, men of other nations were placed by the Assyrian
king in the cities of Samaria. These people feared not the Lord, and were moved to
petition the king by reason of lions that slew some of them. Their petition was as
"The nation which thou hast removed, and placed into the cities of Samaria, know
not the manner of the God of the land. Therefore He hath sent lions among them"
(II Kings 17: 26).
In answer to this petition the king of Assyria sent back one of Israel's priests that he
should teach the people the fear of the Lord. It is almost certain that this priest took back
with him the law of Moses, so that the Samaritans should be taught, as they put it, "the
manner of the God of the land".
The grammatical revision is about the same stage as the Hebrew of the time of
Hezekiah, and some adjustments to the Samaritan dialect occur in the narratives of Elijah
and Elisha. But these changes are too highly technical to consider in detail. The
introduction of square Hebrew letters into the Hebrew MSS probably originated in the
Jewish revulsion against anything Samaritan. The Samaritan Pentateuch is in the older
form of Hebrew such as is found in the Siloam inscription, and for this reason was set
The importance, too, of the Samaritan Pentateuch is considerably lessened by the fact
that the part of the O.T. which is in the best state of preservation is the Pentateuch, so that
the manuscript gives most light where it is not so urgently needed. We leave, therefore,